Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
There’s a feel to the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?” that can be hard to pinpoint. There’s the Caribbean element to it, the literal storytelling of swimming in the ocean with sea creatures, but there’s no island feel to go with the lyrics; there’s the tricks, the spinning, the looming possibility of one’s empty head collapsing, and yet none of the nauseous dread that these images evoke. Instead, fittingly, the feel is one of distance – everything is there, all those lyrics and thoughts laid out, and yet they’re not what the song is about. It’s about a theme, a feeling, an environment, a difficult-to-pinpoint quality that brings the listener in. It’s a song that’s easy to cover and yet incredibly difficult to cover well, a song where a good cover is measured in its ability to capture something intangible.
Some artists, however, manage to capture it (or something close to it), and leave us not just enjoying a song but wondering the very question posed in the title.
Glowbug – Where Is My Mind? (Pixies Cover)
Glowbug kicks things off with what might appear to be the most tonally different take on “Where Is My Mind?”, a synthy electropop piece marked with rapid-fire digital percussion; what differentiates the track the most, though, is ultimately the structure. The track feels inorganic, constrained by fidelity to timing, and yet this somehow allows for it to become something else, a ghost in the machine searching for its answer.
The Coral Sea – Where Is My Mind? (Pixies Cover)
The Coral Sea, in a drastic departure from Glowbug’s take on the song, delivers a slowed-down, chilled-out, ambient approach. The cover blends light strings and lulling guitar and hits a fantastic balance with it.
Trampled By Turtles – Where Is My Mind? (Pixies Cover)
They say that the more things change, the more they stay the same. This seems to be true of Trampled By Turtles‘ bluegrass take on the song. Despite the instrumentation, the fantastically executed replacement of electric guitar with banjo finger-picking, the cover somehow has the feel of the original, as if it’s an acoustic Pixies experiment with banjo. Normally, covers are distinguished by their differentiation from the song being covered; in this case, though, it feels as though the band broke the song down and rebuilt it from the ground up with their own tools.
Maxence Cyrin – Where Is My Mind? (Pixies Cover)
If Trampled By Turtles rebuilt the song on a banjo, Maxence Cyrin took it apart and boiled some pieces down and rearranged others to build something that is, at its core, “Where Is My Mind?” and yet is something else entirely. The cover, a beautiful piano instrumental, is something that an entire film score could be built around, an ocean of rolling keys that seems able to float on air and carry the listener along.
Sunday Girl – Where Is My Mind? (Pixies Cover)
Building (perhaps) on Cyrin’s piano influence, Sunday Girl hews closer to the Pixies original while still throwing in her fair share of surprises. With a change in tune and tone here, a change in line delivery there, the cover pronounces itself enough that the distinction isn’t simply a matter of slowing down and playing the piano with beautiful vocals inflected with a British accent; it’s a twist, a reflection, another look. Like the rest, it’s not to be missed.